Concours & Car Shows

In Photos: This Is Japan’s Most Bonkers Car Festival

Motor Fan Festa is automotive gone wild.

Japan loves a good festival—there are at least 200,000 of them held every year. With 190,000 religious shrines throughout the country and each shrine holding at least one annual festival, there’s plenty to account for just there. And then there’s a festival for everything else, including typical things like dance, lanterns, flowers, and snow, and crazier ones for crying babies, belly buttons, and cursing, and even one that literally involves burning a mountain.

Festivals are certainly good ways to honor traditions and celebrate passionate interests, so of course there are ones for cars, too. The wildest is called the Motor Fan Festa, an annual event that has been attracting some of the coolest and craziest cars from around Japan for one petrol-fueled day at Fuji Speedway. It’s organized by a few enthusiast-led publications and can be thought of as several small festivals within a larger festival. For example, Motor Fan Festa offered a chance for manufacturers to hold events for their customers, with Aston Martin, Renault, and Chevrolet holding special parade runs and track outings for fans.

As with most years, there was also a large gathering of Liberty Walk cars. By large gathering, we mean a hundred or so of these wide, body-kitted cars, a group that took over an entire paddock at Fuji. (And that impressive showing paled to the 200 Liberty Walk cars—of 210 in Japan—that gathered here a couple of years ago.) Other cars in attendance included a couple of crazy bosozoku-styled cars with their sky-high spoilers, widebody kits, and splitters that could scrape off roadkill.

One of the best things about this event is the free rein spectators have to wander around the pit garages and paddocks to get up close and personal with all the cars on display. It’s very much an event for the people, with special demonstrations including a D1GP drift run in the middle of the day. For many the highlight of the event for many was the parade run and grid walk.

Aston Martin had a strong presence this year, with a dozen or so of Gaydon’s finest at the Festa. It was a mix of V-8 and V-12 models. (No Cygnets showed up. Maybe the invites got lost in the mail.) There were a few examples of Aston’s latest model, the DBS Superleggera, in various colors—including one in an elegant beige. The main attraction for the Aston Martin fans was the V12 Vantage GT3 and Vulcan AMR Pro out on track. Interestingly, the Vantage sounded louder and nicer than the Vulcan, although that could be in part due to the driver of the Vantage pushing a bit harder.

Like Aston, Renault had a special event for its customers, too, including a few laps around the Fuji Circuit and a parade run. It was hard to miss the massive presence of the French brand at the Motor Fan Festa, as it literally filled up two car parks with the brand’s signature blue and yellow hot hatches. There were a couple of Alpines, new and old, thrown in for good measure, too. But of course it was the Clio V6s (called the Lutecia in Japan for some reason) that really stood out. There were both Phase 1 and Phase 2 versions there, because no Renault meet is complete without both.

As a midday break, there were brief D1GP demonstrations, with some competitors from this year’s premiere drifting competition exhibiting their talents to the excited crowds at Fuji. It was a rare chance to see cars going around the main circuit of Fuji sideways—sometimes in tandem—and filling the air with billowing tire smoke.

If you had enough of inhaling roasted tires, there were even more paddocks to explore. Tons of other manufacturers have displays for everyone to have a poke around their newest models, there are plenty of aftermarket accessories and more to tempt you to pull out your wallet, and you can also take in some of the race cars and supercars that will be on parade later. Short of Tokyo Auto Salon, there’s not many opportunities to see these sorts of exotics and tuned cars next to each other in a concentrated area.

The finale for the Motor Fan Festa was the supercar parade and grid walk. Around 100 cars lined up on Fuji Speedway’s main straight—once one of the longest in Formula 1—where fans had a chance to get up close and personal. Up front, crowds made a beeline straight for the Aston Martin Vulcan and the special Ferraris, including the Japan-exclusive J50, an Enzo, an F40, and a Testarossa. In previous years, Pagani Japan and exotic and collectible-car dealer Bingo Sports were heavily involved with Motor Fan Festa quite heavily and always brought along some incredible machines such as a Ferrari F40 LM, Ferrari 288 GTO Evoluzione, Pagani Zonda Revolucion, BMW M1 Procar, and Porsche 935. This year, the absence of Bingo Sports was noticeable, and the Ferraris were there in their stead. The J50, Enzo, and F40 are incredibly cool, but it’s always nice to see a mix of marques, too.

The Motor Fan Festa is an incredibly exciting event, a place where you really can immerse yourself in the unique Japanese car scene with locals. It’s one of many motoring festivals held across Japan, but its timing in April and location (it’s easily accessed from Tokyo) makes it one of the most convenient to attend. It’s a festival held by motor fans for motor fans.